BENIN CITY - There is currently tension in the Edo State All Progressives Congress (APC) following the leadership crisis within Oredo Local Government Area which led to the last week remand of the state Youth Leader of the party, Comrade Osakpanwa Eriyo in prison by the magistrate court in Benin. Sadly, Oredo is the local government council of the state governor, Godwin Obaseki and some other powerful leaders of the APC in the state including the state Secretary of the party and Obazulu of Benin Kingdom, Chief Osaro Idah, Lawrence Orka, immediate past Chief of Staff to the governor, Patrick Obahiagbon, Rasaq Bello-Osagie, former Speaker of the House and Ambassador Designate, Uyi Igbe, Rev. Mike Egharevba, Prince Austin Eweka, Osaro Obaze, Mrs Adams and many others.
This is the first major crisis in the council confronting the governor in his own backyard. The battle for the soul of the party is between the state youth leader of APC, Comrade Eriyo and Chief Osaro Idah who is backed by the entire leaders of the party in the council including Governor Obaseki. Osakpanwa has his list of party executives in the council while Chief Idah has his.
Background of the crisis
Apart from being the state Youth leader of the APC, Comrade Eriyo is the state chairman of the Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria(RTEAN) and one of the fearless youths in the state who embraced APC from its inception in the state.
He is regarded as one of the immediate past governor Adams Oshiomhole’s top field soldiers in Edo South. Having been empowered by the past administration, he built a political empire for himself controlling over 30,000 youths across the state whom he empowered. He is therefore regarded as a god father to many of them. It was not surprising therefore that he was pushing for the control of the party in Oredo.
The party in Oredo was factionalized prior to the governorship primaries of the APC. Though majority of the leaders including Osakpanwa agreed to back Obaseki, but they have differences in terms of the leadership of the party in the council. That was why Chief Idah who knew that the former Chief of Staff to Oshiomhole, Patrick Obahiagbon (Igodomigodo) was a neutral person in the power play, got him to convene a meeting of the leadership of the party in Oredo so that they can all speak with one voice to ensure victory for Obaseki. That was how Igodomigodo became the convener of the Leadership Forum under the supervision of Chief Idah who is the state Secretary of the party and they succeeded in bringing all the factions together.
The Forum believed that Osakpanwa cannot be the leader of the party when the state Secretary of the party, Chief Idah is from the local government. And their fear is that if allowed, Osakpanwa with his wealth and political influence, is capable of anointing a commissioner and the chairman of the Local Government whenever Obaseki decides to hold Local Government election. They therefore resolved to stop him. Initially Osakpanwa who believed that this Forum might thwart his ambition to become the leader of the party in the Local Government, did not welcome the idea of the meeting but he later started attending when he found out that their candidate, now governor Obaseki had embraced the group.
That was how the leaders temporarily pushed the leadership battle aside to go for the primaries which Obaseki eventually won. In unison the leaders worked assiduously to ensure victory for Obaseki at the general election. Ensuring victory for Obaseki in his own backyard was very critical to the overall result of the election, especially when they have it at the back of their minds that the PDP candidate, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu’s ancestral home is in Oredo Local Government and therefore has his supporters there. However, on the 23rd of December, 2016, when Governor Obaseki invited Edo South APC leaders to Government House for a leadership meeting, two list of Executives emerged from Oredo.Chief Idah presented one list which was accepted by the meeting while the one presented by Osakpanwa was rejected and that was why Osakpanwa’s loyalists were stopped from entering that meeting. Hell was then let loose when his loyalists stormed Government House insisting that they must enter the meeting.
It was in that state of confusion that Osakpanwa was alleged to told Chief Idah in anger that he will be killed the way his father, Late Chief Idah was murdered. He was alleged to have also threatened the Chief Security Officer (CSO) to Obaseki, Mr Haruna.
He however denied these allegations saying he was being framed up by the party just to rubbish him. During the pandemonium on that day, it was learnt that some of the cows and rams which the governor bought as Christmas gift to party leaders were carted away by the rampaging youths.
Obaseki was said to have felt insulted with the entire episode, particularly when he was being accused of masterminding the humiliation of Osakpanwa after supporting him to win the governorship election. But the leaders argued that support for the governor should not translate into insulting a sitting governor. It was alleged that even after the Government House saga, Osakpanwa attended a meeting at the residence of the chairman of the party in Oredo, Dr Okoro the next day, where they were said to have equally made some unfriendly comments. It was consequent upon this alleged threat that Chief Idah petitioned the Police alleging threat to his life. Chief Idah’s petition is understandable because the brutal murder of his father in 1992, is one of the high profile assassinations in the state which the killers are yet to be found. His late father was then the chairman of Oredo Local Government Area and one of the powerful politicians in the state then. However, the political tension in the state heightened after Osakpanwa was arrested by the police on the 27th December, 2016 with other party leaders in Oredo. Over 20,000 youths thereafter invaded the state Police Command demanding his release. Osakpanwa was said to have attempted suicide at the Police Command when he used a broken bottle to cut his body with blood flowing freely before the police held him while he cursed Governor Godwin Obaseki whom he accused of being behind his travail.
Amidst tight security, the police was able to whisk Osakpanwa to the magistrate court along Sapele Road at about 3pm last week Thursday 29, December 2016. He was arraigned with another chieftain of the party, Sunday Osagbona, for alleged conspiracy and attempted murder of Chief Idah. When Eriyo was brought to court, he yelled at the police demanding why he was in handcuff when he was not a criminal. He said, “why are you charging me for attempted murder, did I kill anybody, I am not a criminal, the governor is only trying to oppress me, I have not done anything”.
The pleas by their Counsel, Usunobun Evbayiro, that they should be granted custody in the police cell due to their ill health were rejected by the Magistrate. But the presiding Magistrate, M.C Ojobo said she lacked such powers and that prison custody was the proper place to remand them since there are health facilities at the prisons. She said she lacked jurisdiction to entertain the matter and ordered the case file to be sent to the Department of Public Prosecution for legal advice.
The matter was then adjourned to January 13, 2017 for mentioning. However, Edoconnect learnt that the leader of the party in the state and immediate past governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole has waded into the matter while Osakpanwa is currently cooling off in the prison. It was equally learnt that Oshiomhole who has been on holidays was not happy with the alleged threat on the life of Chief Idah and attempt to insult the sitting governor. It was learnt that the former governor has been consulting with the leadership of the party to find an amicable resolution of the matter so as to avoid unnecessary division in the party.
The former governor who was able to manage this sort of party crisis effectively during his reign is aware that the PDP is celebrating this seeming crack and he is determined to disappoint them once again. However, the crisis is causing anxiety in the party particularly when the result of the governorship election is still being contested at the governorship election Tribunal by the PDP.
That is why the party leaders believe that though Osakpanwa should be tamed but they must also be careful about the future of the party especially now that Governor Obaseki has stopped these youths who are staunch supporters of APC from collecting any form of revenue.
From the result declared by INEC in Edo South, it shows clearly that it is not yet uhuru for the APC and any attempt to mishandle the crisis in the party in Oredo which is the biggest Local Government Area in the state may spell doom for the party.